The best 5 English garden flowers are amongst my favourites.I’ve just been away on holiday, and the flowers on Kefalonia were wonderful, but for me, you can’t beat English summer flowers.
If I’d travelled earlier in the year, I would have had the opportunity of seeing all the wild flowers Kefalonia has to offer – they are particularly abundant on Mount Aenos, home of the beautiful Cefalonian fir tree.
On my walks, I did see ( and smell) wild oregano, rosemary, oleander and stunning bougainvillea, but much of the smaller flora was straw coloured, baked by the hot sun.
I couldn’t resist getting my garden scissors out of the kitchen drawer, wandering around my garden and cutting my myrtle, lavender, lemon balm, Buddleia, Chilean potato plant and sweet peas to make a lovely bouquet. If you make a bouquet from the flowers in your garden, it is best to remove quite a bit of the foliage from the stems before arranging the flowers. Also, steep them in lukewarm, deep water for a while, so they have a good drink. This will make them last longer.
It’s obviously a matter of taste, but my favourite 5 English summer garden flowers are:
DIGITALIS, or foxgloves. Pretty speckled glove-shaped flowers that grow really tall.
AQUILEGIA, or pixie caps. They flower in early summer, and leave a pretty seed pod that can be dried and used in autumn displays
LAVENDER. For its sweeping bushes and amazing scent and healing properties. It is good for relaxation and sleep. I love the gentle grey of it’s tiny leaves, and watching the busy bees resting on the tiny flowers.
ALCEA, or hollyhocks look fabulous as they grow tall and attract the butterflies to your garden. you’re left with tight little purses full of seeds for next year. During Victorian times, the hollyhock was a symbol of ambition and fertility, probably due to its height and the profusion of seeds in the little purses after flowering.
NIGELLA , or black cumin. The alternative name for this is love-in-the-mist. If you peer through the furry stems of these star shaped flowers, it looks all misty. Sissinghurst Castle’s white garden has a wonderful show of white nigella in the summer.
I’m going to name my top ten flowers to dry as those that are readily available, reasonably priced, and look great in displays. But it is also fun to experiment with drying any flowers you want to keep after a special occasion, or a lovely one you chance upon. If it doesn’t dry well, you can always press it.
I find that I naturally dry flowers – leftover flowers in the shop and in late summer, beautiful blooms in the garden that will soon be destroyed by autumn winds or frost.
Number one has to be the rose – available in so many colours. Dry in a cool, dark place and hang upside down to stop the heads from drooping. You can make them unfurl a bit once dried by holding the in the steam of the kettle for a few moments.
Number two is hydrangea. If you’re lucky enough to have them in the garden, just let them dry on the bush. They don’t even need to be hung. The petals are so strong that you can spray paint them. I like an antique gold tinge at Christmas.
Three is statice. If you’re making a tied bouquet, blocks of statice help the other flowers stand perfectly. It holds the colour well too. Dried flowers can look faded, so this gives density.
Four is the poppy head. Strong, and adds texture to your display.
Five is craspedia – gorgeous little yellow spheres that always make me feel happy.
Number six is gypsophila. Gyp crowns for weddings have been popular this season. Take a look on Instagram and Pinterest.co.uk. Gyp keeps its voluminous quality when dried.
Number seven is larkspur. Long, spikey clusters in pink, mauve and white will add height to your composition.
Eight is lavender. A fabulous scent, best used in clusters.
Number nine is Alpine thistle. You can find some really large blooms in the summer months, adding a fabulous focal point to your display.
Last but not least is nigella. I look at them and remember the delicate love-in-a-mist of summer.
Dried bouquets look good tied simply with raffia or garden string. You can hang them upside down, put them in a vintage jar, or have rhem in a vase on the kitchen table.
We’ve seen a huge increase in the sale of houseplants this year, so here are our top tips on how to choose the right plants.
There is a current high demand for cactuses and succulents. Lots of the homeware shop chains are selling little terrariums. The advantage of these plants are that they need little water, so forgetful people are not disappointed to find withered blooms after a couple of weeks without water. What they do need is good natural light. They are reasonably priced, so even if they only survive a few weeks, due to lack of light, they are a cheaper proposition than cut flowers.
If you fancy something larger – maybe to hang from the ceiling, or trail down from a high shelf, spider plants, (chlorophytum comosum) are great. They have stripey green and white long, thin leaves and produce babies, which can easily be cut off and re-potted. They have been cited as one of the top plants for cleaning the air. Toxins are absorbed by the leaves and are used to feed the roots. They also emit oxygen. “One man’s meat is another man’s poison”! water weekly, and allow to dry out between waterings.
The Boston fern (nephrolepis exaltata) is an elegant, trailing plant. ferns like moist air, so bathrooms and kitchens provide a good home. They are a strong green, with no variegation.
If you’re looking for a plant that can cope with little natural light, go for a Peace lily, (spathiphyllum). They produce white, sail-like flowers constantly, and have beautiful, shiny, dark green leaves. You can spray with leafshine if you like the shiny look. Don’t worry about clogging up the pores – they breathe from the underneath of the leaf. The Peace lily is also a top air purifier. They like to be moist at all times, reflecting their swamp-like, natural habitat.
You can visit us at Stems to discuss your wedding flowers. Normally, we can give you an outline of everything you should consider in half an hour.
It amazes me that some brides to be contact us a week before the event, while others are already planning two years in advance! There is, of course, a lot of pleasure to be derived from planning an event.
Pinterest.co.uk is a source widely used by brides to be. They often show us photos they have seen. But since there are no filters for seasons or suitability, many of the images are not feasible for bridal flowers.
I have supplied flowers for weddings at The Palace of Westminster, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Aquarium at London Zoo, The Steam Museum at Kew, The Museum of Garden History and many more of our elegant London landmarks. But my favourites have to be the marquee weddings. I love it when the marquee opens out onto a beautiful garden and we can reflect that in our floral displays inside rhe marquee.
Just as with the food we eat, where in season is synonymous with at its best, flowers bang in season are unbeatable.
If you’re planning a spring wedding, think freesia, tulips, narcissi, ranunculus, blossom. If it’s summer, you have the choice of big, blousey peonies and hydrangea with delphiniums and digitalis for the large displays, or dainty little spray roses and soft lisianthus and limonium with veronica for a fairytale look.
I’ not keen on the current jam jar trend, with cluttered tables. It’s what the table should look like at the end of the reception, not the beginning!
The main thing is, choose the flowers to suit the venue – and find out what’s in season on your chosen date. You can then colour coordinate with bridesmaids’ dresses, ties, waistcoats, venue colour scheme etc.